Amazon, Apple, Google and the other guy hope to create a smart home standard


Hey, that could be the next big acronym. It sounds like a large bird, but hey, in a world filled with googles and tweets and bluetooths (blue teeth?) it doesn’t sound so weird. The acronym stands for Connected Home over IP and that’s the whole point. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Zigbee have joined forces for a single standard for all smart home equipment. At least that’s what you get out of this press release, published several places including Apple’s site.

Here’s the skinny.

As far as I can tell, all the major players got together and decided that it was better for everyone to stop fighting. Smart home equipment has plunged in price in the last year and yet it seems like adoption rates have peaked. Most of us got that first Echo Dot and got tired of it after a few months of asking it inappropriate questions or yelling at it.

So, the big companies got together and they must have decided that the big problem was compatibility. Most devices work with Google Home or Alexa, and a decent percentage work with both. But Apple’s HomeKit has largely been left in the dark and a lot of other manufacturers have been stuck paying licensing fees to Apple, Amazon, and Google so they could enter the smart home space.

It seems like this new standard, based on the secure Internet Protocol which runs everything, will be open-source. That means no licensing fees but it potentially makes everyhing more hackable. Obviously no one is talking about that yet. Right now everyone is talking about how this is going to jumpstart smart home adoption and how it’s going to lead us to the future. That future will be filled with devices that talk to each other. Everything from your socks to your oven will communicate. That’s the dream anyway. That’s what they want you to think.

But hey, who are these Zigbee people?

Zigbee is a trade group that’s been working on new home communication solutions for a long time. Their web site says they’ve been around since 2002. They are made up of Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Google, IKEA, The Kroger Co., LEEDARSON, Legrand, Lutron Electronics, MMB Networks, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, SmartThings, Somfy, Texas Instruments, and Wulian.

I wouldn’t have even heard of Zigbee if they hadn’t had a part in developing the XMP specification for DIRECTV remotes. That spec, also called RF4CE, lets DIRECTV remotes talk bidirectionally over IR or RF and effectively makes them self-programming.

Zigbee may not change the world but they do seem to have good ideas. They seem to be held back by not having Sonos or Control4 on their board. Both those companies are smart home pioneers and are trusted by home theater enthusiasts. Without them. Zigbee seems just a little less useful.

But really…

this is good news. It probably won’t make most of your smart home stuff obsolete. Probably. There will probably still be ways for you to use it. No guarantees of course. But, looking at the future it seems like every connected device will really work with every smart assistant. The pairing process should be easier and it should all mean better lives for us in the future. At least that’s what they’re selling. As with most things, I’ll believe it when I see it.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.